Commentary Magazine


Terrorism and Immigration Reform

As more information filters in about the background of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, the country is beginning the process of trying to process the horror we have witnessed this week and put in some context that might impact our views on policy questions. What we know at the moment about Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev isn’t much, but it is enough to already throw out some of the pet theories about “white Americans” that were floated this week by irresponsible writers. Others may now substitute that foolishness for new equally specious theories that will seek to connect these two legal immigrants who reportedly attained citizenship with the topic of immigration in order to spike any chance of passing legislation to reform the current system.

The main focus today and in the coming days should be about homegrown terrorism and the question of what factors served to radicalize these two young men. But as much as we should resist any attempt to impute guilt by association with all Chechen immigrants or even all Muslims, as opposed to Islamist radicals, there is a connection between this crime and the question of border security. As we examine how this plot eluded the attention of security officials and what, if any, connection the Tsarnaevs may have had with foreign terror groups, it’s worth pondering just how antiquated and useless many of our efforts to defend the border currently are.

The status quo on immigration and border security has brought us a situation where an estimated 11 million illegals currently live inside the United States. We know little about them and any talk about deporting them is pure fantasy. If this were changed to allow those illegals to come into the system and a modern computerized system of background checks were installed, perhaps not only would security be enhanced. It is also possible that the federal government would also not be expending so much of our scarce resources on attempting to round up chambermaids, busboys and migrant agricultural workers here trying to make a meager living doing jobs Americans don’t want. Those who try and confuse anti-terror efforts with that pointless endeavor are doing the country no favor.

The tale of the Tsarnaev brothers appears to be one in which immigrants who were shown compassion by the United States and given a chance for a new and better life turned on their new home. Their behavior, especially if it turns out to be motivated by radical anti-American Islamism, is a disgrace and an insult to the countless immigrants from abroad, including many Muslims, who have become loyal citizens, just as those who came from abroad in previous generations did.

But our feelings of disgust and anger at the Tsarnaevs must not be used to rationalize a continuation of our current failed immigration and border policy.

The more open and transparent our system becomes, the safer our nation will be.

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